Ode to Joy

If you grew up in a certain kind of church, and are of a certain age, you may know a song that goes like this:

I’ve got the JOY, JOY JOY JOY, down in my heart!

Where?

Down in my heart!

Where?

Down in my heart!

I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart, down in my heart to stay!

(Things really hit a crescendo here in the refrain)

And I’m so happy!

So very happy!

I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heeeeeart!

And I’m so happy, so very happy, I’ve got the love in Jesus in my heart!!!!!!

I remember standing in my Sunday best, wholeheartedly participating in this simple call and response. We used to split the children’s choir down the middle; half of us calling out the question, the other half responding at the top of our lungs. I always wanted to be in the group with the answer and the joy. DOWN IN YOUR HEART, SILLY!

Lately though, I identify more with the desperate half of the crowd crying out; WHERE? I feel like a bewildered little girl watching everyone thrive and be joyful and I’m like, “Wait, WHERE?” Seriously, HOW? WHY? Can someone stop singing a sec and EXPLAIN THIS?!?"

I wish that in Sunday school we had also covered where to turn and what to say when you don’t feel the love of Jesus or the joy in your heart. My take away was that you either had it or you didn’t. You were in or you were out.  

I felt a prompting this year to pursue joy. I'm embarrassed even writing the words "pursue joy," but there it is. I actually considered making JOY my word for 2016, but didn’t think it was interesting or complex enough. In years past, I’ve chosen words like “transcend” and “identity.” (Insert snark here) Joy is what I am after, but still, I can't name it. I even added “playful” and “fun” to my running list of possibilities, but I could not would not commit to joy.

This Tuesday, I woke up sick for the second time this year. (Guys, it's only February) Really sick. Whatever ravenous, life depleting virus is going around NYC that knocked me off my feet last month, came back to finish me off.  I seriously wanted to die. In addition to the discomfort of being sick, I felt absolutely demoralized. Like I was being kicked just as I was starting to find my feet again. I’d also been job hunting this whole time, and felt raw from more than one rejection.

“I am not asking for happy!” I cried out- to God, I guess.  I am too smart and pay too much attention to think happiness is going to sustain me. You needn’t look far to know there are more reasons to be sad than happy. (Headlines, anyone?) I was clinging to my sadness, but really craving joy.

I have tried accessing it in my heart and I have came up empty. So seriously, God, WHERE is the joy?

I heard a still, small voice say 'Binge watching Law & Order,' but I've been wrong before.

Instead, I decided to take advantage of our new insurance which covers 100% of therapy sessions. I felt a flicker of hope and emailed my beloved counselor only to learn he does not accept this new insurance. Well, that was all the room I had to try to find joy for the day. Deflated once again, I could not bear the thought of scrolling through the insurance companies list of providers- their faces looked goofy and they had weird names. (It is possible I was looking for reasons not to go, I'm sure they're lovely people.) I would try to find the joy again tomorrow.

The next day, my husband told me he had done some filtering of the lists and came up with a woman he felt was a good fit for me. What’s her name? I asked dubiously.

Dr. Joy. (Last name omitted)

Seriously?

He laughed. He appreciated the comedy in being severely depressed and calling Dr. Joy to help.

I told him I would feel more comfortable with a Dr. Sadness.

What brings you here today?

What brings you here today?

That same day a friend sent me a screenshot of her phone to show how she cleaned it up and organized all her apps into one folder so she would feel more peaceful looking at her screen. What did she label the folder containing her apps?

Joy.

But wait, there's more.

Later that day, I saw a friend post on social media that instead of giving something up for Lent, she would instead add something. I’ll give you two guesses what she’s adding to her life.

J to the O to the Y.

Do you think I am actually suggesting that God heard my plea and answered by literally dropping Joy into my life three times in one day?! Consider the facts: three people who did have Joy in their hearts generously gave some to me. (Only one of those people knew how badly I needed it) Maybe we need to go back to church and tell the sunday school kids to ask for some joy when they're running low. Maybe the point is to take it out of our hearts and share it.

I am not less sad today. I am just a little more certain that there is joy to be found and I pray it finds you when you need it like it did me.

In writing this, the Christmas Carol, 'Joy to the World' came to mind. I googled the history only to discover it wasn’t ever intended to be a Christmas song, but rather a song about Christ’s second coming. (Like most great art, hijacked to sell stuff, but I digress!)

Like the 'Joy joy joy joy down in my heart' song of my youth, this one also relies heavily on repetition to get a point across.

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat the sounding joy,

Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

Put another way:

Cry out, seek joy, repeat.

Cry out , seek joy, repeat.

Cry out, seek joy, repeat.

“I cried out to the Lord and he answered; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4